At least five Manitoba schools move to remote learning due to positive COVID-19 cases

WINNIPEG — At least five schools in Manitoba are now operating under a remote learning model due to positive COVID-19 cases.

Students at Holy Cross School, Pilot Mound Collegiate Institute, Thomas Greenway Middle School, École St. Norbert Immersion, R.D. Parker Collegiate and École Marie-Anne-Gaboury all learned from home on Monday after staff and students tested positive for the virus.

Some parents CTV News Winnipeg spoke with were divided on whether moving to remote learning province-wide is the best course action as the third wave of COVID-19 continues to wash over the province.

“They need their friends,” said Adrienne Mondour, who added her child was not engaged when learning from home. “Taking them out of school isn’t good.”

“We can’t even visit another household, why not close the schools?” said Tammy Rostosky, referring to the new restrictions on household visitors to come into effect on Wednesday. “The children have a lot of close contact at school.”

“We do not have the resources to be able to (do) at-home school and continue to work,” said Adam Strauman, a father who is also an essential worker, along with his wife. “It would be a very big strain on our family.”

The decision to move École Marie-Anne-Gaboury came on Friday, April 23, after a combined total of 12 students and staff members tested positive for COVID-19, then requiring another 103 students to self-isolate at home.

The school will remain under a remote learning model until at least May 7.

Logistics played a role when deciding to move École Marie-Anne-Gaboury to remote learning, said Louis Riel School Division Superintendent Christian Michalik, as it was difficult to find staff to fill in COVID-19-related vacancies.

“Over the course of the week we were monitoring for staff absences,” said Michalik “Our ability to fill those absences with substitutes was a growing concern as well.”

Michalik is concerned what rising case counts in Manitoba may mean in the months to come.

“If we don’t see the pattern change for the better it’s going to impact schools, it’s inevitable,” said Michalik.

When it comes to transmission of the virus, the province said it isn’t happening at schools and parents need to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19 among students.

“If we’re trying to keep kids in school we have to limit the amount of gatherings they have outside of school,” said Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin, pointing to house parties and sleepovers as examples. “That’s where we’re seeing the transmission.”

James Bedford, president of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, said the best way to make sure schools stay open is to vaccinate everyone working in a school setting.

“A move to vaccinate all those working in the public school system would be a huge step forward to ensuring that the school system has the best possible chance of staying open until the end of June,” said Bedford. 

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